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28 January 2006 @ 01:05 am
Smallville 5.12 Reckoning (Part 2)  
Recap: first impressions here and Part One of essay here

Revelation
One of the things I loved about Reckoning was how believable Clark was in both realities. While I was staggered by the first reality and at least at some point empathised with Lana when she asked ‘is this really happening?’, I could well believe that Clark would be driven to reveal his secret by the extreme fear of losing Lana. Clark’s method of showing Lana was so typically Clarkian. The words were still difficult to find: he showed her physically. He showed her the physical reality of his existence in all its beauty. The scenes in the caves and in the Fortress were surreally beautiful.

Lana’s response is initially awe at the sheer beauty and wonder of what she’s seeing. Then she turns to Clark with admiration. It mirrors Lex’s reactions to discovering Clark’s secret in Shattered/Asylum. Both times, we see that when the secret is revealed to someone who loves him, they respond with almost worship-like intensity. Having said that, I was also glad that Lana admitted to herself that the revelation may change her feelings towards him. Her honesty is one of her best attributes.

In the second reality, we see Clark return to his more usual closed-off self, complete with secrets and flimsy excuses. For me, this felt like the more logical conclusion of the set-up that we’ve seen in the first-half of season 1. The cracks have showing in their relationship for some time. If Clark didn’t reveal his secret, it would drive them apart… and so it is. In despair Lana asks him to tell her the truth or nothing and he responds with silence. Once again, this mirrors Clark’s experience with Lex. They reached a stage where Clark had lied so many times that any excuse was incriminating and he started responding simply with silence. This can only be sustained so long and both relationships falter in the face of it.

Lex and self-destruction
Self-destruction defines Lex in this episode. It was shocking to see him in such a state of unguarded despair. His alcoholism has increased over the years, as has his unbalanced mental state. What is rare is for him to display it in front of others. He acknowledges that ringing Lana is a mistake. He pushes the boundaries of their freshly formed friendship to breaking point and at some level he knows that’s what he’s doing. Lana proves her worth as a friend by showing up. In the first reality it’s an act of true friendship: she chooses to be there for him on the biggest day of her own life. In the second reality she is far more self-motivated, admitting that she had wanted to escape from being around Clark following their fight.

Lex tells Lana that he has alienated everyone he cares about, which we know is true. Lana is the final straw, as he acknowledges: ‘I can’t lose you too’. He discovers he has already lost her when he finds the ring on her finger, which marks her as Clark’s.

Yet Lex is also partially responsible for losing Lana. In the first reality he tells her ‘thank god you never had a father to endure’. This reference is painful for Lana, whose life is influenced as much by the absence of her parents as Lex is by his father’s presence. Lex knows that he’s hurt her, yet he still says it. In the second reality, he responds to Lana’s rhetorical question ‘why would you lie to someone you love?’ with ‘I wouldn’t. This question cuts to the heart of things for Lex, who has recently promised to be truthful to Lana and whose past relationships were characterised by full revelation of self. He is eager to prove himself to her and moves from his trademark intense shoulder-grip to kissing her. It’s too fast, and he knows it. His regret is instantly palpable.

Controlling destiny
Both Clark and Lex have difficulty accepting that they don’t have absolute control of not only their own destinies but other people’s. Both display a constant need to ‘fix’ things. Against all reason Clark screams to Jor-El ‘there must be a way to fix this!’ While Lex is in self-destruction mode in Reckoning, Clark is at his most active and interventionist. He rushes to the Fortress and demands a way to ‘right’ things, knowing that the consequences are going to be terrible.

His sense of responsibility and his desperate need to make amends at all costs stems from the experience of having Lana’s blood literally on his hands. Chloe briefly attempts to point out to Clark that there may not have been the inevitable conclusion of revealing his secret, but he quickly dismisses this. While my first instinct is to agree with Chloe, there is also a sense in which it’s true that Lana dies because she knows Clark’s secret.

The ring marks Lana out as having privileged access to Clark. Lex discovers it and he knows that she’s stepped into Clark’s inner circle, into the small circle of people that know Clark’s secret. Previously both Lex and Lana have been mutually excluded from this circle of knowledge, and this has inevitably drawn them into empathy and alliance. Lex recalls the experiences they both acknowledge as being weird – Clark rising from the dead, Clark disappearing to Metropolis. The second one dates back several years, underlining the length of time that they have been ‘together’ in being excluded by Clark. If either Clark or Lana had thought about it, they would know that Lex would know Lana was lying. The three of them are drawn too tightly together. Lana tells Clark she can tell when he is lying; Lex has many times told him the same thing; they can all see through one another. The pretense that there ‘is no secret’ cannot be continued because the shift in behaviour is so obvious. For Lana it was potentially fatal.

Yes, I do think Clark reacted out of sheer gut emotion, just as Lex did in Lexmas. Neither, in their grief, was rational. Their hearts were at stake. Martha talks about there only being ‘so many beats in a lifetime’. Where the heart is concerned, noone is that rational. We may not like it, but we can understand it.

Music symbolism
The music choices could not have been more appropriate in this episode. The James Blunt track at the beginning clued me on to something not being right. It’s recurring lyric of ‘you’re beautiful’ is so very Clana-y, but that sense of ‘destined not to be after all’ that embues the song made me think the break-up was nigh. I was temporarily confused when it didn’t occur at first. So when I realised that the reality was ‘reset’, it finally clicked into place! The ‘we shared a moment’ line was perfect for Clark and Lana: in the scope of his life, their relationship really is a ‘moment’, a perfect image that turns out to be substance-less but which is haunting and beautiful (ok, defriend! I praised Clana! But backhandedly, guys, backhandedly!)

I don’t know the final track but it was perfectly haunting. ('Nothing has really sunk in. Looks like it always did...') The lines of the song were used so well to reflect on the characters, it was practically vid-like!
- 'it's so hard to move on' (Chloe and Lois turning to look at Clark and then moving away)
- 'still loving what's gone' (Lex watching from a distance--this moment just *broke* me. I howled!)
- 'they say love carries on' (Lionel passing Martha by)
And even the final lyric 'Did I dream this belief or did I believe this dream?' really encapsulated the episode and its mirrored sides.

Some other little first season echoes
Clark told Chloe the Spring Formal would be ‘a night she’d never forget’ and it turned out to be aborted by him rescuing Lana. In Reckoning Clark has told Lana she’ll have ‘a day she’ll never forget’. While that’s true in the first reality, in the second it ends in tragic disappointment and the end of their relationship. (Clark! Don’t ever give Lex or Lois that line, yo!)

The funeral scene was very reminiscent of Whitney’s father’s funeral (with the beautiful cinematography in the rain). Whitney was the second character whose father died on the show (if you count Lana in the Pilot). He followed in his father’s footsteps… to his death. Father’s die but they cast long shadows. Martha tells Clark that even without Jonathan there, Clark is a man that he could look up to: a man that 'knows what's right and wrong' and this will lead Clark into his future.

Chloe and the cows
About the only things I haven’t covered in this ep. They were pretty! ;-)
I've run out of words, so I'm going to go watch the images again... I love my show! *g*

I am off to the beach this weekend, and I'm late late late for much-needed sleep. So I may not be able to reply to comments or posts immediately. I am dying to hear everyone's thoughts though and will be rushing to it on my return. Please leave pearls of wisdom below. ;)
 
 
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant
 
 
 
mahaliemmahaliem on January 27th, 2006 04:06 pm (UTC)
I have no pearls of wisdom. I did want to let you know how much I enjoyed this review and all your reviews. You always state things so clearly.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Bop_radar TWbop_radar on January 27th, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I really appreciate the comment.
Becky: Clark destinybeeej on January 27th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
I really love your insight. I tend to feel things instead of thinking them, and you bring much needed clarity for me. :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clark dreams dyingbop_radar on January 27th, 2006 10:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I tend to process eps emotionally by writing about them. I'm glad you get something out of my little thoughts too. :)
rhiannonherorhiannonhero on January 27th, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
Great analysis. It definitely makes me like the episode a lot more! Thank you!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clark wetbop_radar on January 27th, 2006 10:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Yes, I gather it went down like a lead balloon with most... (I am always so strange in my reactions--I was genuinely shocked to discover that!)
Heather: B/W Lex by violetsmilesmiss_tress on January 27th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
The song at the end is 'I Grieve' by Peter Gabriel. It can be found on the 'City of Angles' soundtrack. I can YouSendIt it to you tonight if you would like it.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Bop_radar TWbop_radar on January 27th, 2006 10:44 pm (UTC)
Oh! Yes, thank you! That would be great. That's so nice of you!
Heather: HP Lonely by Memiss_tress on January 28th, 2006 02:59 am (UTC)
Here it is. It's a pretty long song at 8+ minutes but it is truly lovely.
http://s22.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=3R2K9ZOVWLK1P20X3H0VGYZNA4
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Bop_radar TWbop_radar on January 29th, 2006 11:40 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! *g*
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex hotbop_radar on January 27th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
Ok. Um. I'm wary to enter into this when I have limited time, as you obviously feel deeply about it (and I respect that). Thank you for taking care with your comment--I appreciate that particularly on this subject, which is close to my heart as a sufferer of mental illness.

Ironically I was at some stage going to write an essay on the part that alcohol-addiction and mental instability play in Lex's life (I guess that would have got me defriended!).

First of all, I should explain that for me, saying someone (Lex) is mentally unbalanced, or even ill, is not an insult or an invalidation of their experience or a disempowerment. By unbalanced, I meant that Lex has cracks in his psyche where he at times demonstrates classic distorted thinking (as a depression sufferer, these are really obvious to me). It's not all the time and for the most part Lex battles with it effectively. So therefore, no I guess I don't mean 'unwell' in the sense of being constantly victim to a condition. I'm not robbing him of agency, if that's what you are worried about?

I literally have to run out the door right now, so I'm sorry for the aborted answer on what's a really big complex quesion.
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clark wetbop_radar on January 29th, 2006 11:06 am (UTC)
Thank you! That's fine. *g* I'm just nervous of upsetting anyone. In retrospect, I guess I've thought a lot about it myself, which is why I slid that sentence in so calmly, but I forgot I haven't really shared those thoughts with others!

It was a thread I first started wanting to trace properly at the end of Season 4, and I thought there might come a logical time to tackle it this season, but that hasn't really happened.

This is a good prompt for me to do so! And I'd be interested in your response since you do have a different reading of him. It's definitely an area where my personal circumstances have given me a particular slant on him that others may not necessarily have.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on January 29th, 2006 12:00 pm (UTC)
Actually, I know you deleted the original comment but since it may take me a while to find some time to write my planned essay on the topic, I find I do want to respond to a couple of your points to clarify:
- you are right that it may not be clinical alcoholism yet, but they do seem to be intentionally increasing his alcohol consumption over the years
- I also definitely agree that Lex is high-functioning, exceptionally so given all he has gone through. In fact, it's one of the things I really like about SV's portrayal of him: they show his psychological struggles, and that he wins them 90 per cent of the time is incredible.
- there is a clear distinction for me between 'imbalance' and 'illness' so I hadn't realised how my description could be taken/read. In fact I chose unbalance quite deliberately because I feel he falls short of being mentally ill, but does have a clear war in his psyche and does show some tendencies or predispositions towards mental illness. It's almost as if, if he weren't *Lex Luthor* he would have had a mental break or crisis.
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex senatorbop_radar on January 31st, 2006 02:39 am (UTC)
Yes, that's what I suspected when I re-read your comment in less of a rush! *g*

(off to icons...)
Talitha: fightstarr lex at nighttalitha78 on January 27th, 2006 10:42 pm (UTC)
I also get a deep sense of validation from reading your essays. Reading your thoughts on the episodes makes me think that I'm not so crazy to love this show the way that I do. Thank you.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clex strollingbop_radar on January 29th, 2006 10:26 am (UTC)
Thank you, Jerice! It makes me really happy that you enjoy reading my essays, as I get so much enjoyment from your vids and am glad I can give a little back.

SV has a way of provoking 'irrational' love. It's textually pretty flawed, no denying that. But it just works so well at a symbolic level--that's what validates my love for it. (And the visuals play such a big part in that!) That combination is pretty rare in tv I think.
Nora Norwichnorwich36 on January 28th, 2006 12:13 am (UTC)
Clark’s method of showing Lana was so typically Clarkian. The words were still difficult to find: he showed her physically. He showed her the physical reality of his existence in all its beauty. The scenes in the caves and in the Fortress were surreally beautiful.

I commented in my journal about the cinematography, and almost considered writing an essay on the use of color in this episode (to the extent that I went back and rewatched, taking notes on different colors used in different scenes) but decided I didn't really have the technical vocabulary to write it. But for the first half hour of the episode or so, I was interpreting the surreal beauty of the Fortress scenes as a hint to the viewers that it was a dream sequence. As it turned out, it was not *precisely* a dream --but it was a reality that only Clark now has access to, so in a sense it was a dream. (And that really heightens the parallels to Lexmas, I think).

Both Clark and Lex have difficulty accepting that they don’t have absolute control of not only their own destinies but other people’s. Both display a constant need to ‘fix’ things.

Hee! I made just that same observation (though mainly in reference to Clark) in a comment on your last entry. But I like the way you have put it here: His sense of responsibility and his desperate need to make amends at all costs stems from the experience of having Lana’s blood literally on his hands. Yes--wasn't that a powerful image? I'm surprised I haven't seen anyone else mention it in their reviews.

I also really love your observations about the deliberate parallels to the first season.


K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex alcoholicbop_radar on January 29th, 2006 10:46 am (UTC)
Oh an essay on the use of colour would be fascinating! I really adore the colour symbolism in SV generally.

It is really interesting that you raise the issue of to what extent the first reality can be seen as a dream sequence. It does mirror Lexmas in having those double qualities of reality and irreality. Also, supacat just commented (on first viewing) that the first half seems so much like Clark's internal world. Until the moment where we see Lana go to Lex, it is almost as if it could be just Clark playing out in his mind what it *might* be like if he told Lana. And now that possibility is lost forever! So at one level, it *was* that. The Lex-Lana scene could be viewed as Clark's paranoia leading to his knee-jerk reaction of 'protecting' Lana by not telling her the truth. That's a really powerful and interesting (if extreme) reading. It explains a lot about future!Clark's insistence that keeping his identity a secret is a way of protecting others.

The blood on his hands was SO major! But there was so so much to mention in this ep.

And yes, I have S1 on the brain after seeing it again. At a symbolic level there was so much more going on then than I realised on first watching. A couple of lines had me reeling back from the screen thinking 'OMG! this was articulated this early?!' I'm tempted to write a bit on the rewatch if I can scrape some free time.
Crisduskwillow on January 28th, 2006 03:18 am (UTC)
Now see, this thing about Lana being in more danger because she knows? Wouldn't that mean his parents have been in same danger for years? They must know all about him - they raised him! So whoever is up to get his secrets, could go over them too.

And how hard was it for Lex to see that she is lying when she couldn't even look him in the eye. She's a lousy liar.

I liked Clana too in this episode. They were kinda cute. :)

(Clark! Don’t ever give Lex or Lois that line, yo!)
Hee!

Chloe and the cows
About the only things I haven’t covered in this ep.

LMAO
OK, this cracked me up!! Hard!

Have fun at the beach! :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Angel big dorkbop_radar on January 29th, 2006 10:51 am (UTC)
Thank you! *g*
Yes, Clark's logic is very frustrating with the whole 'I can't tell so-and-so they'll be in danger' thing. I guess this is going to continue in his life too because later he's going to hit the same issue with Lois.

And, yes, the Clana was cute, which is good because the ep wouldn't have worked so well if it wasn't.

The Lex-Lana scenes were so intense and painful. Poor Lex. I had my heart in my mouth for him; I could see it would end badly, but I was hoping against hope it wouldn't.

Beach was fun! I'm all sand-covered and sunburnt now. *g*
mystical van of doom: light upvoldything on January 28th, 2006 04:35 am (UTC)
ow, your analysis always leave me liking the episode even more *happy sigh*
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clex bitter endbop_radar on January 29th, 2006 10:57 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you! That's a lovely compliment. *g* It was a great episode.
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Ameliebop_radar on January 29th, 2006 10:56 am (UTC)
Absolutely! I have those same issues with the long Clark-Lana looks at Mr Fordman's funeral as you do. It was just not good. And it was certainly far far less emotionally resonant than this funeral.

Yes, I think the necklace was such a perfect way to go. I barely heard the dialogue on first viewing. I was just so emotionally transported. I rewound to listen more carefully and the dialogue is interesting, but it's the necklace that makes that scene work so perfectly.

I love that SV was able to provoke such strong emotion in me. Again! And that's despite the fact that I was tipping it would be Jonathan who would die. I survived unspoiled! Hooray! But yes, I did think it would be him. Though it was great to have that seed of doubt.

Your icon is beautiful! I'm going hunting for Reckoning icons now.
clarkoholic: SV: Clark/Martha (reckoning)clarkoholic on February 3rd, 2006 11:24 am (UTC)
Hello. I just wanted to pop in and say that your review of this episode was amazing. So insightful and thought out. I really enjoyed reading it.

I friended you and look forward to reading more of your thoughts on Smallville.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex missing what's gonebop_radar on February 3rd, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's lovely to hear from you and I hope to see you around more. *g*
sail: Star Clex_sail_ on February 4th, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
Lana’s response is initially awe at the sheer beauty and wonder of what she’s seeing. Then she turns to Clark with admiration. It mirrors Lex’s reactions to discovering Clark’s secret in Shattered/Asylum. Both times, we see that when the secret is revealed to someone who loves him, they respond with almost worship-like intensity.

I really liked all the Lex / Lana parallels; they make me a happy clexer. 


The ring marks Lana out as having privileged access to Clark. Lex discovers it and he knows that she’s stepped into Clark’s inner circle, into the small circle of people that know Clark’s secret. […] If either Clark or Lana had thought about it, they would know that Lex would know Lana was lying. […] The pretense that there ‘is no secret’ cannot be continued because the shift in behaviour is so obvious.

Which was only *one* reason to why he shouldn’t have asked her to marry him as soon as he stepped out of the alien closet. Clark really didn’t think that one through.

'still loving what's gone' (Lex watching from a distance--this moment just *broke* me. I howled!)
I know! It was so intense, leaving me breathless. If that isn’t text, what is?
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex Clark has nice hairbop_radar on February 5th, 2006 06:57 am (UTC)
Yes, the Lex/Lana parallels have been one of the most enjoyable aspects of this season for me. They've been well constructed.

I agree that in the first reality, Clark's naivety really shines through--he didn't think clearly about what he was doing. In many ways that first reality works really well if you read it as sosmething that didn't actually occur--rather it was Clark exploring in his mind what would happen if he *did* tell Lana. He concludes that even if she accepted him, there couldn't be a happy ending because of the secret.

The shot of Lex in the background, alone, reminded me of Clark's attendance at Lex's funeral. I loved the echo and what it says about the unspoken connection between the two of them.